I just wanted to start off by stating that anxiety takes on all different forms, but this is my interpretation and explanation of what anxiety means to me.
Do we all have anxiety? We most certainly get anxious. But do we have anxiety?
What would I be like if I didn’t have anxiety?
What even is anxiety?
The most pressing question perhaps is can we cure anxiety?
I have thought hard about my anxiety and I believe I have probably had it since I was approximately 6 or 7 years old. Since those early days of feeling anxious with my heart racing, the sickness rising up from my stomach and into my throat, wanting to disappear, to be invisible and not be the centre of attention – I thought these feelings were “normal”.
Anxiety for me is wanting to flee situations, to hide away, close down, walk away, anything but attention. In my working career I have organised conferences for 100s of guests but I’ve not once spoken or addressed the audience or had any need to do so. The thought literally would make me want to flee/vomit (or quite honestly both).
With anxiety, or more to the point social anxiety, comes uncertainty, vulnerability, negativity and sensitivity.
It was only a few years ago that during a coffee with a friend, my emotions were given a name. After confessing that I nearly didn’t turn up thanks to an overwhelming morning, my friend said, “you know, sounds like you have anxiety!”. My mind was blown, but I felt so relieved to be able to name it.
It was an absolute game changer for me, to know that what I was regularly feeling was anxiety – it wasn’t normal. I felt my chains loosen ever so slightly and those words echoed around me for days as I started researching it.
Recalling all the situations I had been in where I’d managed to (god knows how) get through life events which had me panic washing over me. Flashbacks to all those times where I had gritted my teeth, breathed deep and got through it, afterwards being absolutely exhausted and seeking sanctuary behind a locked door or in a sugar treat or hiding under my bed – sanctuary. My safe places, my safe spaces, my head places, make it all go away.
Anxiety and me: my story.
Some will tell you to just keep smiling, some might tell you to go to the doctors. My anxiety was at its peak and I knew I needed help.
But where do you go when your doctor tells you that because you’re “not suicidal and had no intentions to hurt myself I was not a cause for concern”? What do you do if they simply pass a phone number to self refer and usher you out the door?
The NHS is an amazing support, but my anxiety couldn’t wait the estimated 6-8 weeks from my initial referral to counselling. I took to Facebook and found a counsellor locally. Having made the first move and reaching out, I almost didn’t go. Whilst I had reached out for help, doubts set in as I questioned what exactly I needed help for.
The counsellor had invited me to a crystal reading and small group therapy session. As I got closer to her house, I nearly caved and turned around.
But, I pushed through. And I was so glad that I did.
Immediately meeting her, I felt welcomed, warm, safe and secure. After that initial trial with the session, I booked a counselling session with her; she was truly wonderful, helping me to focus on my feelings, my triggers, and how to breathe. We visualised my feeling of anxiety and the toxicity and sent it packing – helping to visualise it as a colour helped.
Post counselling, I have found a mixture of exercise, a better diet and getting out in the fresh air regularly a huge help and distraction. One thing I have learned is when I get those days (yes I do get them still) I know it’s ok. I know that it’s just my body, my mind, my mental health and I don’t fight it, however I also don’t allow it to take over for too long.
I am in control of me, I don’t need anyone’s approval to do what’s right for me.
My one piece of advice is to find help, don’t live in silence with anxiety; for me counselling worked but it isn’t for everyone, others have the support of medication or treatment.
I find talking helps hugely but for me, I’m very cautious about who I tell and talk to about it. Many just tell me I can shrug it off and many of my friends don’t know or understand anxiety.
Thank you for reading and I hope it resonates with you or someone you know.
Always be kind.
Written by Zoe Britton – Arracan Group